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A Kiwi nurse at the center of a probe into the death of a newborn baby inside an Australian women’s prison has been criticized for her “unfortunate” treatment of the baby’s mother.
Georgina Melody refused the infant, known as ‘Baby A’, first aid after she found her unresponsive at Victoria’s Dame Phyllis Frost Center in 2018.
Firefighters later detected a faint pulse and rushed to give CPR, which was unsuccessful, the Daily Mail reported.
Today a lawyer acting for Baby A’s mother told Victorian Coroner John Olle that her client accepted Melody did not contribute to her daughter’s death – but took aim at her behavior during the traumatic event.
“We’ve made the comment that it is unfortunate that nurse Melody did not provide information or assistance to Baby A’s mother or to emergency services personnel,” Julie Munster told the court.
“Witnesses opined that they found the events that day and nurse Melody’s lack of action or information distressing, which are consistent with the use of the adjective ‘unfortunate’,” Munster added.
“We note that there has been no challenge to that evidence of distress or concern.”
The court heard earlier that Melody had only been working the night shift at the Dame Phyllis Frost Center for six months before the night the baby died.
Baby A was 12 days old when she died inside the prison’s “Mothers and Children Units” in August 2018.
She was born addicted to methadone and her mother was serving time for drug-related offenses, the Herald Sun reported.
Rachel Ellyard, counsel assisting the Coroner, told the court at a pre-inquest hearing in August how Baby A could not have been more vulnerable.
“She was vulnerable because she was a newborn baby. She was vulnerable because she’d been born addicted to methadone, and therefore, had additional health needs.
“She was vulnerable because her mother was in prison, and she herself was a person with drug addiction.
“So her case raises important questions about children in her position and how they are cared for.”
‘Uncompassionate and unkind’
Melody previously told the inquest that she had no formal training in neonatal care and had no responsibility to care for inmates’ babies except in the case of an emergency.
On the night that Baby A died, Melody was 30 minutes from finishing her shift when she was fetched by a guard after she could not be reached on a radio in the prison’s medical unit.
The inquest heard that guards had called a “Code Black” after hearing frantic calls from another inmate that Baby A was unresponsive, the Daily Mail reported.
Melody told the court she was unaware she was going to treat a newborn until she saw Baby A’s limp body being cradled by her mother.
“It wasn’t immediately drawn to my attention who was the victim,” Melody, who reportedly showed no emotion in the witness box, told the court.
“When I walked in I didn’t get a sense of emergency. I didn’t hear any hysteria or panic.”
The court heard that Melody refused to provide CPR to Baby A, despite firefighters who arrived later fighting to try to save the infant.
“The nurse just said “Oh I’m sorry”. That was it … she did not touch the baby,” an inmate, named as ‘Alice’, alleged.
Melody denied that she failed to touch the baby and also denied apologizing to the mother.
Barrister Julie Munster, acting for Baby A’s mother, asked whether Melody felt distressed by the incident.
“Not necessarily. No,” Melody said.
“No. It was surprising.”
Munster alleged that Baby A’s mother told Melody that her child was not breathing.
“She was begging you to help her baby,” Munster said.
“No,” Melody replied.
Munster also accused Melody of being “uncompassionate and unkind” for failing to explain to Baby A’s mother that she had assessed that her child was beyond help.
“No. I don’t accept that,” she said. “I am a kind person.”
‘Ought to be respected’
Barrister Robert Harper, appearing for Melody’s employers Correct Care Australasia, told the coroner’s court that the evidence did not support a finding against the nurse.
“No party contends that nurse Melody’s management of Baby A in any way contributed to her death. Counsel for Baby A’s mother, in my submission has used some terms which are loaded,” Harper argued.
“For example terms such as ‘failed’, ‘lack of action’ and ‘unfortunate’. In my submission your honor, the pejorative element in those submissions should be rejected. The evidence does not bear it.”
He said the evidence showed Melody’s rapid head-to-toe examination of the baby, during which she ascertained the child was dead, was appropriate.
The court also heard from a medical expert who said that Melody’s judgment ought to be respected.
The expert doctor said: “One has to respect the nurse’s judgment that the baby had been dead for long enough that CPR wouldn’t be helpful.”
The inquest continues.